Lady Tops endure growing pains in UNLV Invite

Defensive specialist Georgia O’Connell (12) gets a dig during WKU’s 3-0 win against the University of Louisiana Lafayette Nov. 8, 2013, at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

Jonah Phillips

It was a weekend full of growing pains as the WKU volleyball team tallied one win and two losses in their first three competitive matches of the season at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas invitational.

The Lady Toppers — who have five freshmen on a roster of only 12 — started the season off with a sweep of UC Riverside (25-16, 25-20, 25-12) and hit .400 as a team with just nine attack errors.

Freshman Alyssa Cavanaugh led the charge with 12 kills, as fellow newcomer Jessica Lucas dished out 32 assists to help compile 45 total kills.

Senior Heather Boyan was right at the heels of Cavanaugh, tallying 10 kills and a .629 hitting mark.

The Lady Topper back row was able to hold UCR to 31 kills and only a .064 hitting percentage – highlighted by sophomore Georgia O’Connell’s 14 digs.

Junior Noelle Langenkamp tallied six blocks out of WKU’s 11.

This momentum would not be enough to carry them on to victory when they took on host school UNLV later that day.

“For me, I need to control what I can control,” Langenkamp said. “We had way too many unforced errors this weekend — if I focus on controlling what I can control, it will take a lot of pressure off the younger players.”

For Head Coach Travis Hudson, the analysis of his team’s play was similar.

“Our freshmen played like freshmen,” Hudson said. “What I am really looking for is more consistency from our upperclassmen.”

UNLV’s .279 hitting percentage combined with WKU’s 25 attack miscues allowed the Rebels to sweep the Lady Toppers 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-20).

WKU could not overcome 12 UNLV blocks and hit just .130 as a team despite hitting .400 earlier that afternoon against UCR.

Lucas remained consistent, managing another 32 assists for a grand total of 64 on the day.

“I think we got a lot accomplished,” Langenkamp said. “Even though we weren’t as successful as we had hoped, it definitely brought light to the things we need to work on.”

After dishing out and getting handed a sweep on their first day of competition, the Lady Toppers had one more match against Cal State, Northridge.

WKU was then swept for the second time, falling to nationally-recognized Cal State, Northridge, 25-19, 25-20 and 25-22 on Saturday.

It’s the first time since 2010 that WKU was swept in back-to-back matches.

Langenkamp led WKU in kills with eight in the match. O’Connell continued to hold down the back row, marking a career-high 18 digs.

Lucas followed with seven and also totaled 19 assists.

“It was what I expected,” Hudson said of the weekend. “We have a ton of talent on this team; it is just too soon.”

The Lady Toppers will host their season opener today at 7 p.m. versus Belmont, where Hudson will look to continue piecing together the team he believes has a shot at the title in their first season in C-USA.